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When she has the kitchen all to herself, Phyllis Grant of Dash and Bella cooks beautiful iterations of what solo meals were always meant to be: exactly what you want, when and where you want them.
Today: Of slow-cooked tomatoes and simple summer pastas and job descriptions.
Four days into sports camp and Dash is toast.
Mom. I can’t go. You don’t stop moving the entire day. It’s crazy. You go from soccer to rugby to basketball to art class to some class called "fun" where you make up games and then back to soccer again and oh my god I can barely breathe please don’t make me go again because I just might die.
I consider yanking my tired dude over to the sofa, cradling him in my arms, settling in for some World Cup. And then I remember. It’s not supposed to be easy.
My job is to throw my arms around his waist before he flies out in front of a car. To catch him as he is about to fall out of the window. To dig the half-eaten mushroom out of his gums and rush him to the hospital.
Dash, would you like a hot dog or a ham sandwich in your lunch?
He sits down on the kitchen floor and tries to tie his shoes. He gives up.
To keep him from cutting off his fingertips. To keep him from breaking an arm. To keep him from getting burned.
Dash? Lunch? Any thoughts?
He is now on his back, waving his limbs like he's making a snow angel.
Lunch, mom? You're asking me about lunch? I’m not going to camp.
To be consistent.
I’m making you a hot dog.
Too late. It's already in the pan.
To fill his belly with food. Food we’re supposed to eat. Food we’re not supposed to eat.
Mom. Do you know what your job is?
Nope. Tell me.
To be mean.
To keep placing the food in front of him that I like. That he likes. That he hates.
That night at dinner, I consider setting him straight. I hold back, internally mumbling, show don’t tell, show don’t tell, show don’t tell.
To help him understand the capacity of the heart. The spilling-over hugeness.
We sit side by side, slurping down bowls of pasta. Mine packed with summer corn, slow-cooked tomatoes, and garlic confit; his coated simply in butter, salt, and cheese.
12 cloves garlic, unpeeled (for the garlic confit)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pints cherry tomatoes (any size, color, or shape)
1 tablespoon garlic oil (from the pot of garlic confit)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 sprigs fresh herbs (any combination of thyme, rosemary, tarragon, or sage)
3 ears yellow or white corn
1 pound pasta
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons garlic oil (again, from the garlic confit)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup parsley leaves
Photos by Phyllis Grant